Alliance & Leicester are the Worst Bank Ever

That’s a pretty straight to the point title, and on first reading I might be accused of overreacting, but come on Alliance & Leicester! Are you really this terrible with your other customers, or is it just us? Maybe one particularly slow moving afternoon you thought, hang on a minute, we’ve been providing top notch service to all our customers for some time now and it’s really boring… Tell you what, the next person who signs up for an account, we’ll just generally fuck everything up for them. Yeah, that’ll be a laugh.

My god, what were we thinking? Having recently got married, my wife and I decided to open a joint account to more efficiently manage our finances – you know, to make things easier – so we decided to take advance of the A&L “switching service”, as well as their tempting promise of a £100 “gift” for staying with the account for 3 months. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

The so called “switching service” claimed to rid us of the worries that come with manually changing all direct debits and automatic payments like salaries over to the new account. We wouldn’t have to do a thing. This would make things easier. The bank would even match our overdraft. Fantastic. How very decent of them. So when we received a letter essentially telling us that everything had been done and there was nothing else we needed to do, we felt strangely comforted that we had made the right choice.

OK, so I had to tell three different people on separate occasions our address before they got it right. But come on, give them a break. It’s pretty difficult to press the delete key or type in a number on a computer. Not just anyone can do that. Every time I phone up the Carphone Warehouse my address is wrong,  so it must be difficult for everyone.

However, I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone completely fuck something up as much as they did with the actual account “switching”.

It turned out that the bank had transferred my wife’s salary payments over to the new account but not mine, even though we work for the same company. My wife found this out in the not at all embarrassing or worrying situation of having her card declined due to there not being enough money in the account. 

Annoying, I thought, but at least we could quickly find out where that missing money actually was.

Oh yes, and interestingly, most of the direct debits had been switched, but not all of them.  I imagine a Switching Team member just thought, well I know I’m supposed to change over all the direct debits, but I’m sure just leaving a few will be OK. No-one’ll mind.

Anyway, the lack of salary in the joint account meant us going into our overdraft, which wasn’t prearranged yet as they hadn’t matched our previous one yet. I don’t think I’d be unreasonable to suggest that perhaps, that’s their fault? So what does a helpful bank do that’s supposed to make things easier?

That’s right: send you a letter saying they’re charging you for going into your overdraft at a daily rate.

I think I’m going to cut this short now, but basically I lost count of the amount of times I rang up to talk to someone in the Switching Team only to be told they can’t get through, or I’d speak to someone who would tell me in a really patronising manner that I was supposed to alert my company to change my salary, to which I would reply with “how come my wife’s salary was changed and mine wasn’t?” which would be met with “some companies need telling, some don’t” to which I would offer the retort: “we work for the same company”, after which she would say: “oh, I don’t know then”, regardless of the fact that the bank told us we wouldn’t have to any such thing in the first place.

I think my favourite moment was when at around 16:45 on a Friday I seized an opportunity to call customer services and complain. After the inevitably patience-destroying automated menu system, the girl who answered the phone promised to put me through to the Switching Team, who would deal with my problem. When I was still holding for going on 17:15 (don’t worry, I was doing some mindless work tasks in the meantime), I decided to hang up, and try calling the number again on the off chance that I’d been cut off.

I got through to a lady who informed me that the Switching Team closed at 17:00.  Yes, I’d been holding on to the end of a line, where everyone at the other end had gone home. I’d been holding on for fuck all.

    “OK well in that case, I’d like to make a complaint please.”
    “Of course sir. What would you like to complain about?”
     “Well, how about that for starters?!”

I had to wait until Monday – you can’t deal with these things in the branch – but apparantly my complaint would be registered and I would get a written response within 10 working days.

We ended up getting another letter with more charges, but I eventually spoke to a guy who  seemed a lot more helpful, cancelling all the charges, and putting in a £200 overdraft just in case. I still couldn’t get through to the poxy Switching Team though could I? Not even the bank’s own employees can either!

Moving on a few weeks now to the present day, I had to ask the HR department at work to change my salary over. There are still 2 direct debits coming out of my old account, so I need to change those. Our latest statement now shows that we have gone back to having no overdraft, and there is still no sign of that £100 “gift”, despite having now been with the bank for several months.

And did I ever receive that response to my complaint? Course I didn’t.